Lists

Ranked! The 50 most hated people in football

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25. Roman Abramovich

Do you remember the good old days, when the Premier League couldn’t just be bought by the club with the deepest pockets? No, us neither.

But there was a definite step change when Roman Abramovich’s billions swept into Stamford Bridge. Whatever the Russian’s motivations – and you suspect they had more to do with politics than football – his impact on the Premier League has been undeniable.

Chelsea went from also-rans to a trophy-winning machine, and it paved the way for a series of big-money takeovers – most notably at Manchester City.

Abramovich changed English football, but maybe not for the best.

Words: Amit Kawala

24. Kevin Muscat

Once voted football’s dirtiest ever player, Kevin Muscat spent a career honing his reputation as a hot-headed endangerment to his peers with a litany of shocking tackles. One, on Charlton’s Matty Holmes, left his opponent unable to play again (Holmes was initially told his leg, broken in four places, may need to be amputated).

One tackle that maimed Christophe Dugarry was branded an “act of brutality” by France manager Roger Lemerre. Another, which injured Craig Bellamy, earned him a revenge-stamp from a former team-mate of Bellamy’s five years later.

His most virally notorious act of savagery, performed during his first A-League match back from a suspension in 2011, was a tackle on the winger Adrian Zahra that got him an eight-match ban. These are merely the lowlights of a bulging portfolio.

Words: Alex Hess

23. Richard Scudamore

The CEO of the self-styled best league in the world has a broad remit, but he is essentially in charge of the Premier League's commercial operation. Which is to say he's a busy man – and, on the face of it, a very successful one. At least in monetary terms.

The currency he's raked in on behalf of England's top flight – through sponsorship deals, broadcasting rights and various other deal-brokering – hasn't been readily converted into public goodwill, largely because the dollar-signs-in-eyes approach to his job has resulted in such fan-friendly ideas as staging a 39th fixture overseas.

His role as a chief enforcer of regulations around third-party agents' rights, financial fair play and fit-and-proper ownership would also seem to stand in opposition to his interest in filling the division's coffers. If it is a conflict of interests, then, with the Premier League currently standing as the richest league in the world if not the best – you don't have to be Magnum PI to figure out which side Scudamore is broadly percieved to come down on.

Words: Alex Hess

22. Graeme Souness

The former Liverpool player has attracted a reasonable amount of ire on these shores, partly for his punditry, but mainly for his performances as a player.

Although he played in an age of combative midfielders, Souness seemed to approach winning the “ball” like a Game of Thrones character going in for the kill: one hefty thwack, and then a pause to wipe the blood out of their facial hair.

The Scot is particularly loathed by fans of Turkish club Fenerbahce, for an incident in 1996 when – as Galatasaray manager – Souness planted his side’s flag in the middle of their rivals pitch. “If he’d done the same thing now, he’d go back to England in a wooden box,” says one fan in a recent documentary.  

Words: Amit Kawala

21. Andoni Goikoetxea

“I just felt the impact, heard the sound – like a piece of wood cracking,” recalled Diego Maradona of the moment that earned the Butcher of Bilbao his epithet.

Already renowned for his scandalous tackling having left Barcelona’s Bernd Schuster incapacitated for nine months with shredded knee ligaments the previous season, Athletic Club’s towering centre-half zeroed in on Schusters’ team-mate in 1983 for one of the most notorious tackles in football history.

Maradona ankle was shattered, and legend has it that Goikoetxa still keeps the boot that made the tackle in a glass case in his living room. The following year enmities were renewed in the Spanish Cup final, which climaxed with one of the most staggeringly violent on-pitch brawls ever seen.

Words: Alex Hess